Friday, July 18, 2008

Vacation Day Six

Day 6: Rafting Cache La Poudre and Ft. Collins

We left the cabin at about 4am to make sure we'd make it to Vern's Restaurant (Wanderlust Rafting's meeting place) with time to reflect on our lives in case we didn't make it back from the river.

When we arrived we heard that the river was running the highest it had been all season and there was a 110% chance we were going to get very wet. Since the river is fed by snow that melted the day before, we opted to rent wetsuits rather than suffer hypothermic shock.

I was too slow with my camera to get the shot of Chad emerging from the changing room in his svelte outfit, but trust me when I say it was an incredible sight.

After our safety talk which included lots of ways we could die, but probably wouldn't, we all piled on the bus and headed off to the put-in.

We were doing the "Blast" trip that included Class III - IV+ rapids. Translation: Big, fast ones.

There were 4 boats taking the trip that day. Two boats were part of a bachelorette party, one boat was a 5 member family, and then there was us. We ended up having the four of us, one guide and a trainee in our boat, but we were still the lightest one on the river (in bodies, anyway).

Once we got in the boat, we were all feeling pretty confident since we'd done non-guided tours before and lived to hyperbolize.

The Cache La Poudre is Colorado's only Wild and Scenic river. We didn't see any wildlife, but it was very pretty when we took occasional, tense glances away from the river.

We got some okay photos when the river wasn't raining over us and splashing my blinded face with icy water.

Still having fun at this point, I didn't realize how much up and down we were really doing, or how big the rapids really were. I was focused.

Into the rapid.

Over the rapid.

Through the Rapid.

We rock.

It was this abundance of hubris that, like all great tragedies, led to our downfall.

Enter Pine View Falls, the biggest, meanest rapid on the river.

Luckily the Wanderlust crew was waiting at this rapid to take video so you can see our trip through the falls. We're in the second raft that goes through the rapid.

Cache La Poudre River, Pine View Falls Rapid, Class IV+ from Kristin Sutter on Vimeo.
That's Chad and our trainee you see flying out of the raft and Andy and I with our heads in the river momentarily before hauling ourselves back in by our feet that are lodged into crevices in the raft.

I blame our lack of momentum on the fact that we had the least amount of people in our boat. (Maybe it was also a little bit of the collective "Oh SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT" once we saw the fate of the boat in front of us.)

I really don't remember much outside of feeling Jenn slam into me and icy river water on my head, then just looking around frantically to see if we'd lost anyone. You can see Chad's head being sucked under by the current even though he's wearing a buoyant wetsuit and a pretty serious life jacket.

We made it through the rest of the rapid picking up random people and paddles out of the water as we went, though we lost track of Chad pretty early on. I figured he'd been picked up by another raft and kept telling a slowly growing frantic Jenny this as we eddied out after the rapid and watched the rafts behind us come down the river... without Chad.

The guides and cameramen were running up and down the road that ran by the river, shouting at each other as we realized that Chad was still missing. It was at this point that I actually imagined that Chad, the one who was LEAST excited about the rafting trip since he'd fallen out of a raft in some dicey places before, was dead.

Just as I was preparing another lie to tell Jenn, Chad came ambling down the road with the guide of the first, flipped raft. He looked a little pale (from the cold or the near death, we'll never know), but alive.

After loading up with random guides, and raftless members of the bachelorette party that flipped, we headed down the river through a few more Class III rapids before the take-out.

Despite the bad turn at Pine View, it was definitely the most fun I've ever had on a river. Even Chad was a good sport about it and said he'd get back in a raft again. (Though maybe not right away, I'd imagine.)

After our big river adventure, we needed something to calm our nerves and decided that a tour of the local breweries was the perfect solution.

We started at Coopersmith's Pub and Brewery where Andy found his new favorite beer and I found out there are flavor combinations that should not be allowed in nature.

Unfortunately they don't ship to Chicago, so my tastebuds are saved.

After some great food and sampling of beers, we headed off to the happiest place on earth.

(What would you call a place that gives you kickass, free beer, fun tours and everyone is incredibly friendly?)

New Belgium Brewery! Home of Fat Tire, Mothership Wit, Old Cherry and countless other incredibly mouth-watering brews.

We did a quick self-guided tour since we were too late for the real one and saw them filling one of their first batches of canned beer.

Poking around finished, we sidled up to the bar where we all received a sample sheet that allowed us to pick any four beers we wanted, for FREE.

Well, they did tell us that the "question of the day" was that you had to make up a new dance move and name it on the bottom of your sample sheet. Chad and I demonstrated ours, but I think he had my Lookout and Rockout beat with his innovative Shalamarama dance.

The bartenders were super cheerful and nice. One even offered to take our picture after telling us how beer tastes different depending on your mood, the season season, etc.

If New Belgium offered me a job, it would take me about 30 minutes to get Andy and Milo in the car before I hit the road.

FREE BEER, people. You've got to have priorities.

We finished our samples, chatted with the locals and bought a 12-pack of deliciousness before sadly saying goodbye to Ft. Collins...

and all the free beer.


Casey said...

Nice work out there on the river! Your story sounds eerily similar to the trip we took in Maine for Kate's b-day a few years ago. Ironically, she was the one who was tossed out of the raft at the 'Little Poplar' rapid. Although she never admitted to it, I'm still convinced she sh*t her pants riding through 'Big Poplar' rapid in her life jacket.

My guess is that Chad was less than thrilled to hammer through a bunch of white-water without a boat under him!

Jenn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn said...

I still remember that frantic feeling hoping that Chad would appear at the end of the rapid. Don't want to relive that anytime soon.